Me Tarzan; you John. Edgar Rice Burroughs is best known as the creator of the vine-swinging, Jane-loving jungle man; but he also penned a series of novels about Virginian Civil War veteran John Carter and his adventures on Mars (a locale the author rechristened Barsoom). A number of people, from Looney Tunes animator Bob Clampett to Ain’t It Cool News head geek Harry Knowles, have taken a crack at adapting these otherworldly stories for the big screen. Yet Disney’s $250-million, postconverted 3-D superproduction—based primarily on the first Barsoom book, A Princess of Mars—is the first to come to fruition.
Would that the delays and expense were worth it. But aside from a few inspired vistas and alien life-forms (the Road Runner–fast red planet dog Woola is sure to sell a bazillion action figures), John Carter is as deadly dull as its basso-voiced, beefcake slab of a star, Taylor Kitsch. The hilariously awful opening narration—a CliffsNotes gloss over Burroughs’s complex alterna-mythology about Zodangans, Heliumites, Tharks and Therns—promises a car-wreck classic on the order of David Lynch’s thrillingly Dadaist Dune. Instead, the film quickly morphs into a CGI-heavy blockbuster-by-committee, complete with incoherent battle sequences, good actors (Dafoe, Morton) swallowed whole by digital prosthetics and bad actors (Collins, as scantily clad warrior princess Dejah Thoris) who clearly don’t believe a word they’re saying. You’d think that Pixar director Andrew Stanton, here making his live-action debut, sold his soul for the success of WALL-E—and now the devil’s come around to collect.
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